“This…,” the man no longer in the sky said. “I know you may be a bit muddleheaded from her presence, but do you understand the implications of telling me to leave?”
What implications? If Ilya’s dad wants you to scram, then scram! I can totally take this person on in a fight; my tail hasn’t stiffened in his presence. Can it be that I’m as strong as a tenth-circle magician? Wouldn’t that make me the new strongest person in the world? Mm, I really want to try fighting him now. Huh? He’s leaving?
The door closed as the man no longer in the sky left the room. Ilya Number Two’s grandmother raised an eyebrow and looked at Ilya’s dad. I wonder if she’s married. Wouldn’t it be weird if Ilya Number One and Ilya Number Two actually became sisters? Wait, no. If they got together, then that would make Ilya Number One an aunt-in-law to Ilya Number Two, never mind. Ah, I can’t believe the tenth-circle magician wanted me to be his disciple though. I can’t even use magic.
“Why’d you turn Cain away, Father?” Ilya asked her dad. “Wouldn’t that cause a lot of problems?”
Ilya’s dad smiled. “Why? Were you looking forward to being his disciple?”
Wait, what? Wasn’t I the chosen one? Mm, it’d make more sense if it was actually Ilya since she can fart out flames. Could it be that I don’t know how to read situations properly? No way, that’s impossible.
Ilya lowered her head. “I was for a little,” she said. “But he was rude and a bit cold. I don’t think I would’ve gotten along well with him. I’m sure if I hadn’t met Lucia, I would’ve appreciated a teacher like that.”
It’s nice to know I leave such deep impressions on people. After traveling with me, no one else can satisfy Ilya! That’s the second-best compliment I’ve received! The first is being compared to the Godking. Durandal said that all the Godking was good for was manipulating children, but that is impressive in itself! Look at how I’ve created a relationship with someone who can enchant items by bribing a child with hot chocolate. And look at how I became best friends with nobility by dragging around a duke’s daughter. It takes skill to be this conniving! Not that I’m a bad person, I’m practically an angel with a fluffy tail.
“You know how nobles have been trying to undermine my power for a while now, right?” Ilya’s dad asked, folding his hands and placing them in his lap. “Sending men to pose as bandits. Belittling my ideas during the imperial court. Cutting off trade routes. Bribing cooks to poison my spices. Those kinds of things?”
“The only reason why I can’t stop the problem completely is because it’s not within my power,” Ilya’s dad said, leaning back. “But I’m a duke; who’s above me? The emperor. Maybe the crown prince. And powers beyond the empire’s control.”
“You’re saying Cain is trying to bring our family down?” Ilya asked, her face paling.
“I didn’t want to believe it,” Ilya’s dad said and shrugged. “But after seeing how he behaved today….” He shook his head. “You couldn’t see it because you were participating in the competition, but the reactions on the lesser nobles’ faces upon seeing Cain confirmed it for me. A baron bordering our territory can easily be squashed if I complain to the emperor, but what if the baron has the backing of a tenth-circle magician?”
Ilya bit her lower lip. “Does that mean the emperor is against us as well?”
“He’s adopted a wait-and-see approach,” Ilya’s dad said. “Since it’s already come to this point, I might as well bring the background to the foreground and garner some support with the elves while I’m at it.” He stared at Ilya Number Two’s grandmother.
Jeez, politics is confusing. Life would be a lot easier if you could beat up anyone you didn’t like without worrying about the consequences. But it wouldn’t be fun to get beaten up by someone just because they didn’t like me. That’s why I have to become stronger than everyone else in the world, so I can beat everyone without getting beaten myself! All this talk about beating is making me hungry for some eggs. I’ll make some food while Ilya and her dad figure things out.
“Ily-Mirta.” Oops. Almost called Ilya Number Two by her nickname in front of her grandmother. “What do you want to eat for dinner? I’m a really good cook, you know?”
“Roasted rose petals and ginger roots,” Ilya Number Two said. “And bean curd with olive oil.”
“Yeah, I don’t have that. Pick something else like steak. Steak sounds good, right?” Don’t name things I don’t want to eat! Why would I keep those things stored in my interspacial ring anyway? My space is very valuable; how else am I supposed to fit all my gallons of hot chocolate?
Ilya Number Two tilted her head. “Um, can I pick something else?”
“No. I gave you a choice, but you didn’t pick something practical, so I chose for you.”
“But roasted rose petals are practical….”
“Too bad. Welcome to the real world, kid.” Looks like steak is the unanimous decision for tonight’s dinner! “You’re fine with steak too, right, Mrs. Mirta’s Mom?”
“Well it seems like I don’t have a choice,” Ilya Number Two’s grandmother said. She nodded at Ilya’s dad. “I’ll be imposing upon you tonight. I apologize for the trouble.”
“It’s no trouble at all,” Ilya’s dad said. “A friend of Ilya will always be welcome in my home.”
“I’ve heard a lot about you, Duke Pentorn,” Ilya Number Two’s grandmother said. “But I hadn’t heard you stepped past the eighth circle. And I certainly didn’t know your daughter was this impressive.”
“You flatter me,” Ilya’s dad said. “Everything is thanks to Lucia. Without her enlightenment, I would’ve been stuck with eight circles for a much longer period of time. She’s also the reason for Ilya’s meteoric rise. Half a year has passed since they first met, but Ilya jumped from the third circle to the sixth. If Mirta sticks around her, I bet she’d see vast improvements as well.”
I never thought receiving compliments could be so embarrassing. I guess that makes me a humble person. Why am I so virtuous and amazing? I deserve a medal.
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